In a fast-changing industry, these are seven of the best cryptos to invest in.

There's always something exciting happening in the cryptocurrencies space. At its core, the crypto field is a place of capital "B" Big ideas. The Bitcoin white paper, circa 2009, explains a peer-to-peer, decentralized, scarce electronic global currency that cuts out print-happy central banks and moral-hazard-ridden financial institutions and middlemen. A dozen years later, the crypto market is worth more than $2 trillion, with thousands of digital currencies and projects to choose from. It's a lot to sift through, and, unlike stocks, digital currencies don't lend themselves to fundamental analysis. But not all cryptos are created equal: Here's a look at seven of the best cryptocurrencies to buy in late 2021, and the bull case for each. Keep in mind, this is a volatile asset class, so invest only with money you can lose.

Bitcoin (BTC)

Bitcoin's invention in 2009 changed money forever and opened the door to all sorts of variations on and improvements of its technology. It's tough to understate the importance of Bitcoin and the underlying concept of the blockchain that accompanied it, but 12 years later, Bitcoin's first-mover advantage has compounded to put its market capitalization above $1 trillion. As the premier "blue chip" cryptocurrency, BTC is not only tried and true but is still setting new milestones: Tesla Inc.'s (ticker: TSLA) decision to put Bitcoin on its balance sheet and El Salvador's move to make it a legal tender are two landmark 2021 actions illustrating how mainstream BTC has become. With trillions of dollars on corporate balance sheets still sitting idle in cash or cash equivalents, BTC's penetration of corporate finance is still in the early innings.

Ethereum (ETH)

Although Bitcoin has been the lead crypto from the get-go, Ethereum emerged as a force to be reckoned with in 2015 and is perhaps the only other token with any business being regarded as a blue-chip crypto. Ethereum's market share in the nascent and fast-growing field of decentralized finance, or DeFi, has the digital currency slowly chipping away at Bitcoin's share of the overall crypto market. At the beginning of 2021, Bitcoin accounted for 70.7% of the market, with Ethereum accounting for just 10.8%. Today, the gap has dramatically narrowed, with BTC at 45.1% and ETH at 18%. But only about a third of Bitcoin's declining market share is attributable to ETH — the rest can largely be chalked up to some of the best cryptocurrencies to buy that follow.

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Solana (SOL)

Solana quickly burst onto the scene in 2021, rising from obscurity — SOL had a 0.01% market share to start the year — to become one of the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap by September. Like Ethereum, Solana has become a leader in DeFi, where users can create decentralized applications, or Dapps for short, that cut out traditional financial gatekeepers like exchanges, brokers, clearinghouses and banks themselves. Novelty isn't always a plus, but it is with Solana: The Ethereum-like network has been quick to attract quality engineering talent due to the underlying Rust programming language that's extremely easy to use. Two other improvements SOL has over ETH: The network boasts both faster speeds and much lower transaction fees. Solana's price is up about 100-fold in 2021 alone, roaring from $1.51 to more than $160.

Axie Infinity Shards (AXS)

As the space evolves, the best cryptocurrencies to buy tend to become more and more obscure. Enter Axie Infinity Shards, the governance token for a blockchain-based game reminiscent of Pokemon. It's a player-owned game, with AXS acting as the voting mechanism. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Axie Infinity is a great example of the freewheeling creativity that can unfold on the blockchain these days. The ecosystem is unique because it's proven an incentive-based game can be built and successfully sustain itself on a decentralized network. Aside from simple fun, play-to-earn options encourage continued usage, and each character is its own nonfungible token, or NFT, that can be leveled up through gameplay. AXS has gone parabolic this year, soaring from 57 cents to its current level around $126.

Cardano (ADA)

Although not quite in Ethereum or Bitcoin's league, Cardano is an obligatory nominee for the best crypto to buy. It's the third-largest by market cap next to Bitcoin and Ethereum. It's younger than both Bitcoin and Ethereum, with the first ADA — the local currency on the Cardano blockchain — appearing in September 2017. Cardano 's appeal is multifaceted: It was founded by one of Ethereum's co-founders, Charles Hoskinson, giving it instant credibility, and unlike ETH, it also has a hard cap on the number of coins that can exist, at 45 billion. Another advantage over many other cryptos: Cardano uses a proof-of-stake protocol to incentivize users to create new blocks, a process that some experts estimate is 20,000 times more energy-efficient than Bitcoin's proof-of-work algorithm.

Binance Coin (BNB)

While Coinbase Global Inc. (COIN) gets the bulk of the media's attention when it comes to cryptocurrency exchanges, Binance is the largest global exchange by volume. Binance was initially based on the token issued through the Ethereum blockchain but has since transitioned to being issued on its own Binance blockchain. As with several other top cryptocurrencies, there's a maximum supply of BNB, which is capped at 200 million. Currently, more than 168 million are already in circulation. One catalyst for the coin's rally over the years is Binance's goal to reduce total supply by 50%. To this end, Binance conducts quarterly "burns" of coins to reduce supply. The three burns announced this year have destroyed 6,016,504 BNB — the equivalent of about $2.5 billion at today's prices. Since the initial coin offering in 2017, the BNB price has soared from 10 cents to about $415. In 2021 alone, the coin is up about 1,000%.

Wilder World (WILD)

Easily the least-known and riskiest of the top cryptocurrencies to buy right now is Wilder World, one of the newer coins around after debuting in May 2021. First things first: Prudent investors should only entertain WILD as a small, speculative holding — its lack of a track record and $118 million market cap (the others on this list are worth between $7 billion and $1.05 trillion) make it an out-and-out gamble. But holding a smattering of small cryptos that could "moon" can sometimes be quite lucrative. Caveats aside, WILD is the governance coin of the Wilder decentralized autonomous organization, which has created a metaverse. Digital artists can create and sell NFTs in the ecosystem, with the WILD token acting as the native currency. Wilder World doesn't exact fees from artists for sales they make in the ecosystem.

Seven contenders for the best crypto to buy now:

— Bitcoin (BTC)

— Ethereum (ETH)

— Solana (SOL)

— Axie Infinity Shards (AXS)

— Cardano (ADA)

— Binance Coin (BNB)

— Wilder World (WILD)

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